What is it?
MoodGYM is a web-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program designed to help users identify and master difficult emotions — like feelings of anxiety and depression — by learning good coping skills.
How does MoodGYM work?
To begin, users must create a free account with MoodGYM. After logging in and reading the instructions, users’ first activity is to complete a set of depression, anxiety, and “warpy-thoughts” quizzes. These reappear at the start of each module to track how a user’s feelings progress as he or she moves through the program.
MoodGYM uses the basics of CBT with online exercises and diagrams that call attention to some of the negative thoughts that can plague a person with anxiety or depression. Through demonstrations, mood exercises, and workouts, MoodGYM encourages users to reshape an unhealthy inner dialog. MoodGYM stores a user’s answers to all of the program’s exercises and quizzes so that he or she can track progress in these five main modules: feelings, thoughts, unwarping, de-stressing, and relationships.
These six central characters demonstrate feelings and guide users along the way in MoodGYM: Noproblemos, Cyberman, Elle, Jane, Moody, and Creepy Angry.
MoodGYM does not offer personalized feedback, but it recommends Go Ask Alice, run by Columbia University, for users with specific questions. MoodGYM is not a substitute for seeing a qualified professional who can diagnose and treat depression or anxiety.
Who is MoodGYM for?
MoodGYM was originally designed for people between 15 and 25 years old. The basic strategies may be helpful to adults of all ages, but some of the examples are geared toward younger users.
How much does it cost?
MoodGYM is a free program funded by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Health.
What studies have been done on MoodGYM?
A randomized, controlled study of 106 participants, ages 18 to 65, used therapist-assisted MoodGYM sessions for six weeks. This study found that the majority of participants experienced a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression. The researchers concluded that MoodGYM, compared with brief therapist support, could be a potentially effective treatment for depression.
While this and other studies show reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety after individuals use MoodGYM, lasting up to 12 months afterward, the program makes no claim that it will be helpful for every person who tries it.
In recent years, many researchers have questioned the benefit of web-based programs to improve symptoms of conditions like ADHD, depression, and anxiety. In 2017, a group of researchers completed a meta-analysis of the available studies on MoodGym. It emphasizes that study results should be interpreted with caution, but found tentative support for MoodGym’s effectiveness as a free program to improve symptoms of depression and psychological distress when participants adhered to the program, and completed all exercises.
Where can I learn more?
MoodGYM is available in English, Norwegian, Chinese, Dutch, and Finnish. Learn more at moodgym.anu.edu.au.
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